The fashion industry has turned to using verified data and technology to improve the industry’s footprint among global supply chains.
Fashion accounted for 10% of global carbon dioxide output in 2021—more than international flights and shipping combined, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. It also accounts for a fifth of the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year.
As pressure mounts to make fashion more sustainable, brands and retailers are seeking assistance and reassurances that global supply chains are using verified data and technology to improve its environmental footprint.
US-grown cotton is one of the most technologically advanced industries in the world. US cotton growers have seen significant progress in the sustainability of their farms, by improving soil health, reducing loss and erosion by 37% per acre and increasing soil carbon levels.
Additionally, they have used 79% less water and 54% less energy, reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 40% and land use by 49%.
A new generation of AgTech
According to a study from Duke University and Cotton Incorporated, 51% of US cotton growers use GPS-enabled ‘swath’ control to ensure they are not overlapping practices such as planting, fertiliser, and crop-protection applications. Nearly 7 in 10 growers surveyed also use GPS auto-steering functions on their equipment, such as tractors and pickers.
Precision agriculture gathers farm-specific parameters including soil conditions, nutrients, and water availability. Many US cotton growers use precision technology throughout the cotton season — with 63% reporting that they use GPS receivers to improve their sustainability. By analysing live weather radars, growers can avoid activities that would be affected by weather, such as the timing of applying nutrients and herbicides, thus improving efficiency.
Quantifiable, verifiable goals and measurement for key sustainability metrics of US cotton production
Growers must now demonstrate their sustainable farming practices to brands and retailers who are facing increased pressure from their customers and policymakers to provide sustainability metrics following accusations of greenwashing. A 2021 report analysing the websites of 12 of the biggest British and European fashion brands, including ASOS, H&M and Zara, found that more than half of the environmental claims could be classified as ‘unsubstantiated’ and ‘misleading’.
The US Cotton Trust Protocol wants to shift the market towards continued sustainability progress. The program verifies the US cotton industry’s sustainability progress through data collection and independent third-party verification, and helps growers easily measure their progress in six key sustainability metrics — land use, soil carbon, water management, soil loss, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy efficiency.
Technology holding the key to hitting climate targets was also highlighted by Jef Caers, Professor of geological sciences at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. Caers argued Artificial Intelligence (AI) is what countries need to follow in order to hit their net zero targets.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?